Who Invented the Swivel Chair?

The swivel chair is one of those neat inventions that we regularly use in our daily lives, yet, they often seem to go unnoticed. They are with us through thick and thin, as we work all day in the office or play video games at home, but have you ever wondered who made the first swivel chair?

Who Invented the First Swivel Chair?

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president of the United States of America, is often credited for the invention of the swivel chair. Yes, the man who is one of the founding fathers of the United States and the writers of the Declaration of Independence is also the inventor of the swivel chair.

It makes sense, of course. In addition to his political achievements, Jefferson was also known for his many inventions that became widely popular at the time. He invented the polygraph, a manual photocopy device, and the wheel cipher, a device that makes decoding messages easier.

Jefferson was also the inventor of some surprising devices, like the macaroni machine, which, you guessed it, is a pasta-making machine. It helped Jefferson popularize macaroni and cheese in the United States!

So how did he come to invent the swivel chair, among other things? Let’s find out.

The Story Behind the Chair

While drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson frequently sat on a Windsor chair. However, he felt restricted by the chair and wanted the ability to move around more as he worked. Thus he made a few modifications to his Windsor chair.

The Windsor chair, also known as a comb chair due to the spindles in the back that resemble a comb, is a classic chair model still in use today. However, the Windsor just wasn’t comfortable enough for Jefferson, so he separated the seat into two discs and put a spindle in the middle of the bottom half.

He then placed rollers that he got from window pulleys between the top and bottom halves of the seat to prevent friction. Thanks to these rollers, the seat could rotate smoothly.

Thomas Jefferson made many more swiveling chairs like this one during his time as the president and used these chairs throughout his term. He later improved the design by adding a small writing desk to one of the arms of the chair.

Thomas Jefferson liked his design so much that he wanted to improve it further. After his term in office, he took his design back home to Virginia. He changed the legs of the chair and used bamboo instead of wood.

Earlier Versions of the Swivel Chair

As we said before, Thomas Jefferson is credited as the inventor of the swivel chair, and a short Google search will probably give you this answer. However, the answer may not be that simple.

While Jefferson has made a swivel chair somewhat similar to what we’re using today, some earlier designs might have inspired Jefferson to take action. While there weren’t any swivel chairs around back then, Englishman John Barber had already come up with designs for what was called the revolving chair.

What’s more, there’s an even earlier prototype illustration of the swivel chair that also has wheels, and it dates back to 1505!

Martin Löffelholz von Kolberg designed the first swivel chair in 1505 by illustrating it in his manuscript, the Löffelholz Codex. The design looks more similar to the modern swivel chair than Jefferson’s design, which is no longer a popular way to make swivel chairs. The illustration also shows that the chair’s height is adjustable, and the wheels on the legs swivel around themselves.

The Swivel Chair’s Journey Through Time

Since Thomas Jefferson’s invention, the swivel chair has gone through many transformations to become the version we are familiar with today. However, one of the most fundamental aspects of the swivel chairs of today is that they move around in addition to being able to spin.

Despite not being a swivel chair, the first office chair with wheels was first used by the famous scientist Charles Darwin! In the 1840s, Darwin worked long hours in his laboratory, going back and forth between specimens. He wanted to find a faster way of moving around inside his lab, so he put wheels on his chair.

The office chair or the swivel chair has been modernized to become what we’re familiar with today by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900s. In 1904, Wright designed a height-adjustable swivel chair with wheels. This design was made to complement the design of the Larkin Building, which he was also the architect of.

After World War II, scientists started to study ergonomics, which helped create the swivel chairs we know today.

Now we know who invented the swivel chair and how; let’s look at some modern types of swivel chairs.

Types of Modern Swivel Chairs

Swivel chairs, more commonly called office chairs, have many uses nowadays. There are many different types and models available on the market that are built for particular activities, but today we’ll take a look at the most distinct ones.

Task Chairs

Task chairs are probably the most common versions of the office chairs you can find. They are a staple of every office, and they usually feature seats with adjustable depth and height, can recline, and some of them also feature back or lumbar support.

Since task chairs are used for long hours in stressful environments, the back support and ergonomic design are critical aspects of a task chair. If you’re looking for a good office chair with top-notch back support, you can read our article on our top 6 picks for the best office chairs for back pain.

Gaming Chairs

Gaming chairs are used by gamers, and like task chairs, they are also used for long hours. Therefore adjustability and ergonomics are essential for gaming chairs as well. In addition to the comfort and the back support they offer, gaming chairs can also have more technologically advanced functions such as Bluetooth connectivity and mobile app support. They may even feature speakers and RGB lights.

As gaming chairs have a wide price range, we have collected our best affordable picks for gaming chairs in 2022 for under $100. You can also take a look at our more high-end gaming chair picks that offer the most features.

Executive Chairs

Lastly, we have the executive chairs that are usually larger and considered to be in the premium price range. These chairs arguably offer the most comfort, and they have tall backs that provide upper back support.

Executive chairs are often used by company executives or by people in higher-up positions, thus the name. They are often made with premium materials such as leather, memory foam, and sturdy steel. If you’re looking for a good executive chair that’s made of quality material, you can take a look at our top leather executive chair picks.

You can also check our overall best picks for executive chairs in 2022 to find out our favorites.

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